Jersey City appoints first Black woman civilian to oversee city’s police department

Jersey City made history on Friday by appointing the city’s first-ever African American civilian woman to lead the Jersey City Police Department.
Tawana Moody will take over the responsibilities of recently retired Chief Michael Kelly. Because she is a civilian, she will take on a different title.
“I’m excited because [Jersey City residents’] concerns are my concerns,” Moody says.
Moody knows the streets of Jersey City and says that she “gets” the people who live there. She grew up on Ocean Avenue in the Greenville section of the city.
Moody has worked for the department for 16 years, starting as a clerk. She is now the police director – a title she held for three years, focusing primarily on administration and budgeting. But with Kelly retiring earlier this month, the day-to-day policing duties to oversee 900 officers are now her responsibilities as well.
“I love my job. I love what I do. I love to help officers, serve the community,” Moody says.
Moody says that her upbringing, losing her beloved mother at age 16 and her faith -- she is a minister as well -- all make her who she is and where she is in life.
“I had to grow up knowing I had to do it with a parent – but I’m all right. I’ll tell it to a young girl, a single parent – anyone who has no parents – to hold on to God and to who you are,” Moody says.
Mayor Steven Fulop and Public Safety Director James Shea say that they have been grooming Moody for this new chapter. They praise not only her relationship and credibility with both the community and law enforcement, but also her work ethic, experience and energy.
Moody is the first Black woman who is also a civilian to run the department. She says that it is not why she got the job, but it certainly breaks barriers. She says that she hopes that she sends a message to others during Black History Month and on the eve of Women’s History Month in March.
“I’d tell any young girl out there, no matter what hand is dealt you – and I got a hand – but I’m grateful to the hand. The hand made me who I am now. To work hard, no matter what your color,” she says.
Moody is married and has a daughter and teenage granddaughter. She credits her faith and love of her job for having the energy to “do it all.”
Moody’s new responsibilities officially started Feb. 1.